Foster Kids are Amazing: Inventors

Does your kiddo love to build things out of Legos or experiment by combining any two things left lying around?  Well, walk that kiddo into the kitchen, point to the microwave, and tell’em that a foster kid invented the microwave.

Percy Spencer grew up in a rural community. His aunt and uncle fostered him, because his father died when he was 18 months old, and his mother left home.  Sadly, his uncle died when Percy was just 7.  When he turned 18, he joined the Navy and began to learn about radar.  He later left the Navy and began working for a company called Raytheon.  Percy was working with radar technology when he noticed that a candy bar melted in his pocket when he went near one of the machines.  Observing this phenomenon, Percy began experimenting until he invented the microwave.

I’m imagining your curious foster kids tinkering around until they design something that radically changes how everyone lives.  Can you see it, too?

Interested in other famous foster kids?  Check out my earlier posts Foster Kids are Amazing: Boy Scouts and Foster Kids are Amazing: Fashion Divas.

Adopting Siblings from Foster Care

Adopting siblings from foster care is a super fabulous option for families looking for lots of love and fun.  Keeping brothers and sisters together is critical, but sometimes social workers have concerns.  As potential adoptive parents, you might have concerns, too.  Be armed with the facts about what’s really good for children and help advocate for siblings staying together.

AdoptUSKids has a wonderful hand-out for social workers that busts myths that often lead to brothers and sisters being separated from each other.  It’s really eye-opening.  Here’s what it says:

1. Myth: When a child is acting in the parental role, he/she should be separated from younger siblings to give him/her a chance to “be a child” and/or reduce interference with the new adult parent.

Reality: Separating the older child is detrimental to both that child and the younger children. The younger children must face life in unfamiliar circumstances without the support of the older child, and the older child is often left feeling responsible for the younger siblings even when they are not placed together. Adoptive families who are prepared to deal with this dynamic can help these siblings develop appropriate roles.

2. Myth: Brothers and sisters should be separated to prevent sibling rivalry especially when there is extreme conflict.

Reality: Separating siblings teaches them to walk away from conflict and increases the trauma they already feel in being separated from all that is familiar to them. It does not allow the children an opportunity to learn to resolve differences and develop stronger sibling relationships in a healthy, supportive environment.

3. Myth: Siblings should be separated when one sibling is abusing the other.

Reality: It is important to distinguish between true abuse and all other forms of sibling hostility while considering measures other than separation that can protect the child who is being abused. Removing a child from his/her sibling does not guarantee that the child will not be abused in another setting. Having adoptive parents who are aware of the abuse and who put in place safety plans to address it is an option to keep siblings together.

4. Myth: A child with special needs should be placed separately from sibs in order to receive more focused attention.

Reality: An adoptive family who is prepared to meet the special needs of a child as well as that child’s siblings may offer the best opportunity for the child to receive the attention he/she needs.

A child placed with his/her siblings may actually receive more personalized attention than a child placed into a family where there are other children with similar special needs requiring increased attention and resources.

5. Myth: Sibling relationships should only be considered viable when the children have grown up together or have the same biological parents.

Reality: Children who experience life in the child welfare system often form a variety of “sibling like” relationships with non-related brothers and sisters they have lived with both in their biological families and in foster care. Professionals placing children need to take into consideration the child’s definition of who is and is not a sibling before making adoption placement decisions.

6. Myth: Families willing to consider adopting a sibling group need to be willing to adopt groups that on average include four or more children.

Reality: The majority of waiting children with siblings on the AdoptUSKids website are in sibling groups of two (58%) or three siblings (24%) while fewer are in sibling groups of four to six siblings (18%). (McRoy 2010)

7. Myth: There are insufficient numbers of homes that have the willingness or capacity to parent large sibling groups.

Reality: Most waiting families registered on AdoptUSKids (83%) are willing to adopt more than one child. (McRoy 2010) Some adoptive families express the desire to adopt “ready made” families of sibling groups. Other larger families are willing to adopt larger sibling groups. Policies and procedures that provide exceptions and incentives for families who adopt siblings groups are essential.

8. Myth: Potential adoptive families are less likely to express interest in children who are featured in recruitment efforts as members of sibling groups.

Reality: Recruitment efforts specifically designed for sibling groups that include: resource families who have raised siblings to recruit and talk to potential families; the use of media to publicize the need for families willing to adopt these groups; and recruitment pictures of the children taken as a group, have proven most effective in placing brothers and sisters together.

9. Myth: Families who adopt sibling groups need to be wary of the brothers and sisters joining together to cause problems in the adoptive family.

Reality: Research indicates that siblings placed together benefit from the sibling bond in ways that do not present problems to the parent/child relationship. Older children in the sibling group are thought to provide emotional support to their younger siblings. There is evidence to suggest that siblings who are placed separately in adoption have more anxiety and depression than those who are placed together. (Groza 2003)

10. Myth: There are higher rates of failed adoptions in families who adopt siblings.

Reality: Siblings who are placed separately are more likely to demonstrate greater emotional and behavioral problems. Research indicates that when siblings are placed together, they experience many emotional benefits with less moves and a lower risk for failed placements. (Leathers 2005)

If you would like a pretty version of the hand-out to share, you can download the PDF version of Ten Myths and Realities of Sibling Adoption.

This post is part of Adoption Talk Link Up, where people interested in learning about adoption discuss a new topic every two weeks.  Check it out!

No Bohns About It

Foster Parents: Be More Awesome

Laurie and David Novak almost missed out on a totally awesome pair of kids.

When they welcomed in a 17-month old toddler and her 2-month old baby brother, they weren’t novice foster parents.  They had been fostering for four years in Tennessee.  Lexi, the toddler, arrived with a bandage on her leg, but Laurie and David didn’t realize that they were taking in two children with brittle bone disease, a condition that weakens bones and leads to many broken bones.  After a few months of emergency room visits and tearful children, they called the social worker to say they wanted to have the kids moved to another foster home.  It was so hard to parent kids with medical needs!  But they changed their minds after they learned how desperately these children needed homes.

Fast forward a few years.  They chose to adopt this wonderful sibling set.  Fast forward another few years.  The itty bitty baby brother went on to be famous child star “Kid President” on the Internet.

Robby Novak, aka “Kid President,” has a message for the world.  In a nutshell, its “be awesome.”

Kid President has helped clothe the homeless, inspired people to be nice, helped provide over 1 million meals to hungry kids, and built a playground.  He’s won numerous awards, met President Obama and many other famous people, and has published a book.

I’m sure that Laurie and David Novak are happy about their decision to keep fostering and eventually adopt Lexi and Robby.  And I bet it isn’t because Robby is famous, but because the duo are lovable, fun, and inspiring kiddos.

So when you feel like throwing in the towel, take a deep breath.  Reach out to family, friends, other foster parents, church friends… whoever is your support network.  Call your agency and ask about respite, in-home services, and other ways to make fostering a bit easier.  See if there is a way to work it out.

As Kid President says, let’s be more awesome.

Read a full article They truly have unbreakable spirits by the Christian Chronicle. 

SELF Compassion for the Trauma Momma

I’m sending love out to all the foster/adoptive moms and dads today, and encouraging you to be gentle on yourselves. You are worth a little TLC, so indulge in a dessert, a date night, a bubble bath, a sports show… whatever floats your boat.

Check out the blog below on the importance of having compassion towards ourselves.

Robyn Gobbel, LCSW

{This article went out in my email newsletter yesterday.  I’ve always tried NOT to duplicate content, so forgive me!  It’s been a while since I’ve posted on the blog!  Forgive me for that too!!  It’s not uncommon for me to take writing breaks and it’s always for the same reason.  When life starts to get reallllly busy, I just cannot get in a brain space to write creatively.  I hope to get back to it because it really is my own form of self-care.  It’s a good litmus test- if I can write creatively I am well inside my window of tolerance!!!  And when I’m not writing regularly, I will give myself compassion!!  Thanks to everyone who has already emailed with lovely comments about how much the article meant to you.  It’s so helpful for me to remember that even a short article can really change someone’s day- and that’s…

View original post 579 more words

Foster Kids are Amazing: Fashion Divas

Does your foster kid love fashion?  They may be surprised to learn that famous fashion designer Coco Chanel was fostered by nuns after her mother died when Coco was just 12.

Her fashions were so famous she ultimately became one of the richest women of her time.  Perfumes bearing her name are still popular today.  Maybe you can take your little divas to the perfume counter and smell all the Chanel brand perfumes.

Bet your foster kiddos have tons of creativity and have a bright future ahead of them, too.

*  Be forewarned.  Like many famous people, Coco Chanel is associated with a controversy and may have been prejudiced against Jews.  You may want to use this controversy as a way to discuss prejudice and why its unfair to judge people by their ethnicity.

Want to learn about another way to connect your foster kid with a famous former foster kid?  Check out my earlier post Foster Kids are Amazing:  Boy Scouts.

Are You the Right Kind of Foster Parent?

Take my simple test to see if you are the kind of person we need to become foster parents.

I’ve copied Sharon Astyk’s list of 100 types of foster parents.  Read through this list.  If you find yourself described any of the types below, then you’re needed!

1. People who know the kids already. The first choice for any child is someone who already knows and loves them and vice versa. If you are relative, that’s called kinship care. If you are a teacher, neighbor, friend, daycare provider…fictive kinship care. Lots of people become foster parents this way, because someone in their community needs them RIGHT NOW. If kids you care about come into care, you can become a foster parent right away sometimes if you are kin by blood or connection.

2. Bi, Gay and Gay-positive families – Because gay kids come into care too, and your family has a lot to offer.

3. Couples of all kinds – because, well this is hard work and you need someone to vent to and watch the kids when you go to the bathroom.

4. Anyone who speaks another language. Because imagine being dropped in a home where you can’t communicate at all, on top of everything else. Plus, how cool is it for kids to learn another language in your home?

5. Doctors, nurses, paramedics, other medical professionals. Because a lot of kids come into care because of serious medical needs and it helps not to be scared of the equipment, or the tiny premature babies.

6. People with big houses. Sibling groups, y’know.

7. People with tiny apartments. Because even in a studio, you can usually take babies or children under 2 or 3 (based on local regulations).

8. City folks – because urban areas have the greatest need, and staying in your neighborhood means preserving schools and friendships and continuity.

9. Country folks – because rural kids come into care too.

10. Indigenous peoples – because the ICWA (in the US, there are other laws in other countries) means that there is strong preference for keeping kids in tribal homes and communities.

11. Working Parents – Because often kids will come from homes where no one holds a job or works, and they need to see you being something in order to want to grow up to be something themselves.

12. People who hate babies and would rather die than change a diaper. Seriously, lots of people love babies, but you don’t have to – foster parents are most needed for older kids and teenagers. Want someone who doesn’t need a sitter, handles their own toileting and can go to concerts and basketball games with you? They are out there.

13. Single gender homes. Some kids really need parents and siblings of one gender because of prior experiences.

14. Grandparents. If your kids are grown and gone and you miss the days when there was a baby to rock or someone to take to Little League, your skills and experience and wisdom are needed.

15. People who want to adopt. Because 25% of kids removed my never go home. And if you are willing to take kids with higher needs, they may be legally free already.

16. People who DO NOT want to adopt. Because the other 75% will go to kin or home, and people who want to support birth families and help kids can do more work for more years than the rest of us.

17. Brave people who are willing to learn. Learn to help a kid with braces and crutches in the morning, learn another language, learn to be part of a community that wasn’t yours by birth, to step up and ask a birth parent to help you understand…takes nerve.

18. Nerds and Geeks. Because you remember what it was to be the kid who didn’t fit in, and you can be there for them. And ’cause legos and Star Trek costumes.

19. People who think spit up is an accessory. Because arms are needed to rock the babies. Addicted and medically fragile babies especially.

20. Young people in their 20s – You’ve got energy, you remember what it was like in school and you already know the words to Uptown Funk.

21. People with no pets. Some kids have allergies.

22. Farm folk. Because there is nothing as healing as critters and dirt and fresh vegetables that kids pick themselves.

23. Parents who already have kids with special needs. Because you know how to get that IEP through and how to manage the G-tube, and you aren’t scared by the diagnosis.

24. People with a Sense of Humor. Because trust me, you will need it.

25. Religious people. Because foster children have a legal right to the support of their religion – and because it can be incredibly meaningful to kids to have ritual and structure in their lives.

26. Non-religious people and atheists. Because non-religious parents lose their kids too, and they have a right to the support of their culture. Because seeing the world without God can be incredibly meaningful too.

27. Transgender and trans-positive parents. Because kids gender non-conform too.

28. Multi-racial families. Because you already get it.

29. Black, White, Latino, Pacific Islander, Asian families – because kids feel comfortable when someone in their family looks like them.

30. Big families. ‘Cause there’s always something fun to do and hey, what is one or two more?

31. Small families. Some kids really need to be an only child.

32. Families who can care about and recognize the importance of birth families. Because they are always a part of your children. And sometimes you can build something wonderful with birth parents.

33. Grownups. Because it hurts when they go home, but at least YOU are bearing the pain, not them. Kids in care often are there because no one was willing to be the grownup. Here’s your chance.

34. Smart people. Because this is hard, challenging work – getting your kids what they need, working with service providers, getting diagnoses, navigating the legal system…it is hard and being smart and thoughtful helps. But remember, that doesn’t mean “went to college or grad school” it just means willing to figure out the system. There is no minimum level of education.

35. People who get angry about injustice. Because the kids and their families are part of the greatest slow moving tragedy in the world – our lack of caring for the most vulnerable. You can help and make a real difference.

36. Strong folks. Because this will push you to your limits, and past them.

37. Fathers. Single and married, gay and straight. Many kids have never had a man in their lives who was safe and loving and caring, didn’t even know that they existed.

38. People with pets. Because the love you get from the dog or the cat can be a huge gift.

39. Stay-at-home parents. Because newborns can’t go to daycare and some kids really need a full-time parent.

40. Families that already have kids. Because a brother or sister is a gift, and parents who have been there know how to do the baby dance or help with math homework.

41. Families that have no kids. Because you won’t compare them to anyone and they deserve to be the center of your world.

42. People who really want boys. Because they are harder to place than girls.

43. Special educators. Because you can look past the diagnosis and see the kid, and you aren’t scared by it.

44. Crunchy folk. Because the kids need good healthy food and fresh air and parents who believe in holding and talking.

45. Scientists and analytical people. Because someone has to sort out what works and what doesn’t for the kids. Plus, home physics experiments.

46. Quiet introverts. Because some kids are like that too, and overstimulation is tough on traumatized kids.

47. Loud, crazy, silly, I’ll do anything parents. Because there’s nothing like a dance party to break up a tantrum or Mom wearing her Elvis costume to set kids to giggling.

48. People who are willing to work hard in the world and in themselves on anti-racism. Because if you are going to have kids that are not the same color as you, you need to do that work.

49. Gentle people. The kids have experienced so much violence. Be gentle.

50. Curious people. Because the system and the underlying issues in it are fascinating, often in a train-wreck kind of way. If you want to have your eyes opened, this is good for you.

51. Social welfare and legal professionals. Because you understand the system and can work with it.

52. Fierce, protective Moms and Dads. Because you are going to make sure your child’s needs get met.

53. People who love their brothers and sisters. Because you can imagine how wrenching it would be to lose your sibling, and you can make room for kids to stay together.

54. People with a “what the hell, sounds interesting” attitude. Because who else will take a sibling group of six or newborn twins and a 2 year old?

55. Athletic people. Because they will keep you running, and you already know about endurance.

56. Warm, soft people. Because all those curves and soft parts are great for cuddling.

57. Aunts and uncles. You love your nieces and nephews and spoil the heck out of them. And you could do it for someone else.

58. People who are scared to foster. Because we all are scared when we open the door – it is a huge, life changing thing. It is ok to be scared.

59. Minorities within minorities. Because sometimes kids are minorities within minorities and you can understand the complex interplays of race, class, disability, gender, etc…

60. People who were angry, troubled adolescents themselves. Because you’ll get it. When they get their tatoos, you can show them yours.

61. Empty nesters. Because you have done it all before, and can do it again, and let’s be honest, you kinda tear up when the 6th grade band plays the Star Wars theme badly.

62. People who had tough lives. Because you get it. Your experience with getting through abuse or addiction or trauma can help them, if you can deal with your own triggers.

63. People who can let go and trust in God. Because sometimes you have to admit stuff is out of your hands, and sometimes prayer helps.

64. People who can let go and trust in themselves. Because sometimes prayer doesn’t help, or isn’t for you, and you have to keep trying.

65. People who are nervous about becoming parents. Because everyone with a brain is. It is a huge transition and if you are smart enough to be scared, you have a good start on things.

66. Managers, accountants and the super-organized who color-code their socks. Because it makes life a lot easier if you can keep it all together.

67. Hard workers. Because the race doesn’t go to the swift in parenting – it takes the same 18 years for each kid to get to adulthood. It goes to the ones who keep coming back to it and trying their best and trying again and again.

68. Unselfish people. Folks who can love and accept it might be a while, maybe a long while, before they are ready to love you back.

69. People with goats. There’s just something about goats.

70. Mothers. Single and Married, Gay and Straight. Because, well, Mommies.

71. People with good friends. Because you are going to need a lot of support in this journey. Make sure you tell them what you want from them.

72. Couples who love each other deeply. Because this can be hard, and you will need each other. Plus kids need to see good love to model it in their lives.

73. People with young children. You are already changing diapers, right? So…

74. People with older children. Because that teenager who can barely tolerate you can be a different person when he’s playing with his four year old sister.

75. First and second generation immigrants from everywhere. Because your experience can help others, and your worldview is wide.

76. Disabled people. Because while you may not be able to run as fast as he can, you can give him time and help him navigate a world that wasn’t built for traumatized kids either.

77. Single parents – Because you already have mastered making it all work, and you have amazing skills to share.

78. People part of strong, nurturing communities. Because getting a new placement is like having a baby – and getting a sibling placement is like having four babies. You will need their help.

79. Suburban residents. Because suburbs have kids in care too.

80. Gamers and Game geeks. Because gaming with your kids is awesome. You might have to wait a while on Cards Against Humanity, though.

81. Great Homemakers. If you care about making a beautiful, peaceful, safe home – well, kids need that. Making home a refuge can be incredibly healing.

82. Not-so-Great Homemakers. You can be a slob and a foster parent if you can learn to clean up for the social workers. Trust me on this one.

83. Gardeners and DIYers. You are used to fixing up and making do, preserving and preparing. You’ll find those skills are valuable both in the practical value of feeding the kids and in the metaphorical area of building them up. Moreover, alongside you, the kids learn competence.

84. People who have been or are poor. You do have to be able to feed the kids, but the truth is that you don’t have to have a lot of money or own a home to be a foster parent, and understanding where they came from is good.

85. People with roommates and housemates. As long as everyone passes the background checks and there is room for the kids, households don’t have to be traditional to be loving and wonderful.

86. People who have lost people they loved. Because you know you can live with grief if a child goes home.

87. People with experience of mental illness. Either personally, in your family or in your work, your knowledge and understanding can help kids from families with mental health issues and kids with mental health issues.

88. Parents who sometimes lose their temper, who don’t always do it right, who wish they were better parents. Because all of us do. You can’t hit the kids, but nobody is perfect, and you don’t have to be to be a foster parent.

89. People who can roll with it. Because expecting the unexpected is the rule in foster care. That call in the night at 11pm. The fact that there’s one more kid than they told you…

90. People with handicapped accessible housing. Because disabled kids need a place they can get around in.

91. Folks that live in diverse communities. Because kids are most comfortable where they don’t stick out.

92. People who love the outdoors. Because a lot of kids have barely been out of their homes and never knew the glory of the natural world.

93. Rabid sports fans. Because helping your kid kick a ball down a field or cheer for your team is a great bonding activity. And that competence thing again.

94. Stubborn, Never-Say-Die people. Would you rather have your eyeballs put out than ask for directions? Do you cheer for your team even though they’ve never won a championship in living memory? Will you stay out in the cold wrestling with the broken thing for 3 hours rather than admit you can’t fix it? Awesome. Because kids who have had trauma need people who will stick it out and keep trying and trying and never give up on them.

95. Mechanical people. If you are interested, rather than freaked out by a breathing monitor or the project of building a better ramp, awesome. And if you can’t think of anything more fun than showing your daughter how to fix her bike, here’s your chance.

96. Foodies. Because a lot of kids have been terribly deprived, and bringing them into the kitchen and making sure they know there will always be dinner is a gift to them – and teaching them how to make it themselves is an even bigger gift.

97. People who like gross out jokes and aren’t squeamish. Lots of pee, poop and vomit in this job. Best you find it funny.

98. People who want to leave the world a better place. A fostering and adopting friend once called it “Earning your breathing air.” You will.

99. People who don’t want biological children or don’t care about biological relationships. Great – one less reason for the kids to worry “You love her more than me because…”

100. Just plain old regular, ordinary people. Someone a lot like you.

Foster Kids are Amazing: Boy Scouts

Got a foster kid in Boy Scouts?  Let your boys know that a foster kid grew up and became the “father” of the Boy Scouts.  His name was James West.

Six-year-old James entered into state care after his father died and his mom became ill with tuberculosis.  James grew up in an orphanage rather than with a foster family.  Even though James was crippled with one leg shorter than the other, he ran the Boy Scouts and turned it into the organization it is today.  He even stood up for black boys, allowing them to join the Scouts during a time when whites and blacks were segregated.

Cool, huh?  Wonder what amazing things your foster kiddos will do.